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Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Bible Blogging - Exodus 1 to Exodus 10

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

BibleWith the first book of the Bible behind me, it's time to start on Exodus. The first ten chapters of this book introduce Moses and cover the beginning of the Passover story.

I apologize for not posting an entry in this series last Friday, but with Thanksgiving and the short work week, I just didn't have time.

Exodus, Chapter 1

The book of Exodus started with a brief mention of Joseph, but quickly transitioned to the story that would be told in its pages. Joseph and all his brothers died, but their progeny were very successful, "But the Israelites were fruitful and prolific; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them." A new Pharaoh came to rule Egypt, and he was not pleased with the Hebrews, "Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. 10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land." So, the Egyptians treated the Hebrews badly, forcing them to work hard labor.

The king of Egypt also tried to control the Hebrews in an even more brutal way - he commanded the Egyptian midwives to kill all male Hebrew babies, but allow the females to live. Luckily for the Israelites, the midwives disobeyed Pharaoh.

So, in the closing verse of this chapter, Pharaoh followed on with another dictate, "Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live."

Exodus, Chapter 2

This chapter contained the famous story of Moses being hidden among the reeds of the Nile, in response to Pharaoh's command from the previous chapter. Moses was found by the daughter of Pharaoh, who took pity on him and raised him as her own. But for a princess, raising somebody as your own means hiring a nurse to take care of the job for you, and it just so happened that the nurse was Moses's biological mother. So, for the early years of his life, Moses was raised by his biological mother.

This chapter also included the story of Moses killing an Egyptian after seeing him beating a Hebrew, and Moses's subsequent fleeing from Egypt because of it. Along the way, he helped some girls who were being harassed by shepherds, allowing the girls to water their flocks. The daughters turned out to be those of the priest of Midian, and Moses ended up marrying one of them, Zipporah, and settling down in that region.

The final verses of this chapter caught my eye, "After a long time the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned under their slavery, and cried out. Out of the slavery their cry for help rose up to God. 24 God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 25 God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them." These verses really make it sound like God had forgotten about the Israelites. It was only their 'groaning' that made him take notice and remember his covenant.

Exodus, Chapter 3

This was where God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, and told him to go back to Egypt to rescue the Israelites, promising that " I will bring you up out of the misery of Egypt, to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey." This is also where God got his Popeye moniker when Moses asked what he should call Him - "I am what I am", or more commonly translated as "I am who I am" or "I am who I will be". Though I suppose Exodus was written just a bit before Elzie Crisler Segar created Popeye.

Exodus, Chapter 4

Further preparing Moses to head back to Egypt, God told him what to say and miracles to perform to convince the Israelites that he really was being sent by God. The signs included turning his staff into a snake, putting his hand into his cloak and pulling it back out leprous (and vice versa to restore it), and pouring water from the Nile onto the ground and having it turn into blood. Honestly, if I were looking for evidence of the divine, I'd want to see 'miracles' a bit tougher than what I could see at magic show at a kids birthday party.

Being worried about his speaking skills, Moses convinced God to send Moses's brother, Aaron, to speak for him.

In verse 21, we get the first mention that God is going to be the one hardening Pharaoh's heart, so that he won't let the Israelites go. Granted, in other verses Pharaoh will 'harden his heart' on his own, but about half the time it's God perpetuating the situation and prolonging the Egyptians suffering.

Verses 24 through 26 are just weird - "24 On the way, at a place where they spent the night, the Lord met him and tried to kill him. 25 But Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son's foreskin, and touched Moses' feet with it, and said, 'Truly you are a bridegroom of blood to me!' 26 So he let him alone. It was then she said, 'A bridegroom of blood by circumcision.' " First, keep in mind that "Moses' feet" may be a euphemism for Moses' genitals. But the overall theme of the story is odd - why did God try to kill someone he just asked to perform a mission?

Exodus, Chapter 5

Moses and Aaron met with Pharaoh and began their 'negotiations' to free the Hebrews. In this chapter, there was no threat of miracles or plagues against the Egyptians, yet. It was just a request to let the Israelites have a few days off to go into the wilderness and pray to their god, lest He punish the Israelites. Pharaoh was angered by the request, and so he commanded the Israelites, who had already been making bricks for the Egyptians, to gather their own straw for the task, and to still complete the same quotas. This was obviously impossible, and the Israelites were punished accordingly.

Exodus, Chapter 6

God reassured Moses that He was going to free the Israelites, but when Moses relayed the message, the Israelites didn't believe him, given their conditions. Then followed a section on genealogy, and then God talking to Moses some more.

Exodus, Chapter 7

Moses and Aaron went to talk to Pharaoh, and the story finally got to the miracles and plagues that are so well known. First, Aaron threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Pharaoh's magicians were able to perform the same feat. I guess, just to show that the Israelites were still the heroes, Aaron's snake ate the magicians'.

Next, Aaron held his staff over the Nile and turned the water into blood, killing everything in it and making the river undrinkable. But Pharaoh's magicians were somehow able to replicate this feat, as well. I'm not really sure how, given that the entire river was already supposedly turned to blood.

But none of this changed Pharaoh's mind. His heart was still hardened.

Exodus, Chapter 8

This chapter continued on with more plagues. First came the frogs, which Pharaoh's magicians were also able to conjure. Then came gnats (lice in the KJV). This one was a trick Pharaoh's magicians weren't able to match, which caused them to claim that "This is the finger of God!" Because apparently, conjuring frogs is easy, but conjuring gnats is a miracle. Then came flies. These appeared to change Pharaoh's mind initially, but once the pests were gone, he once again refused to allow the Hebrews to leave.

Exodus, Chapter 9

The next plague afflicted the Egyptian's livestock, "all the livestock of the Egyptians died, but of the livestock of the Israelites not one died." Next came 'festering boils' on all of the people and animals. There's no mention made of the Israelites, but I think it's safe to assume that they were spared.

The plague after that had a few points worth calling out. This was a plague of "the heaviest hail to fall that has ever fallen in Egypt from the day it was founded until now." Any creature left out in the open would be killed. So, "Those officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of the Lord hurried their slaves and livestock off to a secure place," while the other officials left theirs in the open. When the hail struck, all of the slaves and livestock left in the open were killed, along with smashing all of the plants and shattering the trees. Pharaoh once again gave Moses permission to leave while the plague was still ongoing, but changed his mind once the hail and rain stopped.

The first point to question from that story is where the livestock came from, since they were supposedly killed a few verses before in this very same chapter. The other point is who was killed in this plague. It wasn't Pharaoh, his officials, or well to do Egyptians. It was their slaves. And it was a horrible death, being pelted to death by hail stones. If God actually existed, this would reveal a horrible cruelty on his part. As it is, it shows the mindset of the writers of Exodus - slaves were simply property, and their death was a punishment on their owners. (Not to mention the suffering of the livestock)

Exodus, Chapter 10

This chapter started with another explicit mention that God was hardening the heart of Pharaoh and his officials. So the reason that all these bad things were happening to the people of Egypt and their slaves had nothing to do with free will, as some apologists like to argue in regards to theodicy. In this case, it was basically God showing off, "that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I have made fools of the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them--so that you may know that I am the Lord."

This chapter continued on with the plague of locusts, and then a plague of darkness. But in both cases, the Lord had hardened Pharaoh's heart, and so he didn't let the Israelites leave.


The thing that stood out to me the most while reading these chapters was something I mentioned a few times above - the cruelty and callousness of God. He brought all these plagues that caused so much suffering - not just among Pharaoh and the rulers of Egypt, but amongst the people and even the slaves. And there's not even any good reason for why the suffering was so prolonged. When given the choice to let the Israelites go, which would presumably have stopped the plagues, God himself hardened Pharaoh's heart so that the suffering would continue. And even if the Egyptians were being punished because of how they treated the Israelites, what about all their other slaves? They weren't going to be a part of the Exodus like the Hebrews. They were still going to be stuck in Egypt once this story was over. Granted, I know that if there's any truth at all to this story, it's nowhere near as grandiose as the Biblical story (maybe just a small group who managed to escape), but taken at face value, it doesn't present a very flattering view of Yahweh.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

!$#%!#@$ Beavers

Our backyard backs up to a small lake/pond. We haven't been back there in a few weeks, but my wife and daughter took a little walk down there today. Here's what they saw:

Beaver Assaulted Tree

Here's a close up of the carnage:

Beaver Assaulted Tree

If that looks big next to the benches beside it, it is. That's only slightly a trick of the perspective. It is (was) a big tree.

Here's where they were coming in and out of the water, right by the deck we just built this year:

Beaver Assaulted Tree

That tree had actually made it onto this blog once before in the entry, Flooding. Two weeks after we moved into this house, Wichita Falls had its worst flood on record. I took a picture of that tree to show how high the water got. Here it is again:

Flooded Backyard

Our next door neighbors were victims of a beaver a couple years ago, but it was a smaller tree in an area of their yard where it wasn't as big of a deal. This was our only shade down by the water. And it had a perfect little nook for holding my beer. Oh well, I guess this is going to force me to build a little pergola or roof over the deck. Maybe I can turn the stump into a little seat. And I'll definitely have plenty of firewood this winter.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving, 2012

TurkeyHappy Thanksgiving a day early. Even as an atheist without any deities to give thanks to, I still think it's a good idea to stop and reflect on all the good fortune we've had, and take some time to appreciate it. Granted, there's no reason this should be limited to one day a year, but setting a day aside to force us to pause isn't such a bad thing.

While I won't be heading back up north to visit my family up there, we're still going to have a nice Thanksgiving celebration down here in Texas with our friends. The turkey's thawing out as I write this.

And I don't want to turn this post bitter, so rather than complain too much about Black Friday, I'll just link to a post where I've already done that, I Hate Black Friday. Like in years past, I'm boycotting all the door buster sales. I may go out Friday afternoon after I've had a chance to sleep in, but I'm not going to ruin my Thanksgiving celebration just to save a few bucks.

So, happy Thanksgiving, and I hope you have much to be thankful for.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday Bible Blogging - Genesis 41 to Genesis 50

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

BibleChapters 41 to 50 are the final ten chapters of Genesis - my first book down. They bring to a close the stories of Jacob and Joseph.

Genesis, Chapter 41

Pharaoh had a couple related dreams, one where seven "ugly and thin cows ate up the seven sleek and fat cows," and another where seven "thin ears [of corn] swallowed up the seven plump and full ears." His magicians and wise men couldn't interpret the dreams for him, but the cup bearer finally remembered Joseph, so he was brought out of prison. Joseph interpreted Pharaoh's dreams - there would be seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of drought and famine. Because he had two related dreams, it "means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about."

Pharaoh raised Joseph up to the highest position in Egypt next to Pharaoh himself, and put him in charge of collecting grain to prepare for the famine. Joseph got married and had children. And after seven years, the famine hit.

Genesis, Chapter 42

Jacob was feeling the effects of the famine back in Canaan, and so sent all of his remaining sons except the youngest, Benjamin (from the same mother as Joseph), to Egypt to ask for grain. They still didn't know that Joseph had survived, nor that he had such power. In Egypt, they didn't recognize Joseph when they saw him, but he certainly recognized them, and gave them 'special' treatment. First, he jailed all of them for a few days. Then, he agreed to let all of them return except Simeon. If they returned with the youngest brother, Benjamin, then Joseph would let Simeon go free. He loaded them up with grain for their return, but also with their money so that they would think God was cursing them (i.e. that they would think their money never went to Joseph and that he would be angry with them). Once back in Canaan, the brothers told Jacob what had happened, but he refused to let Benjamin leave, lest he die like he thought Joseph had, "If harm should come to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my grey hairs with sorrow to Sheol."

Genesis, Chapter 43

The famine continued, and Jacob had to send his sons to Egypt once again to ask for food, this time with Benjamin. Joseph released Simeon as he'd promised, and again gave them special treatment without revealing his identity. He brought them to his house to eat with them, and amazed them by having them seated according to their ages. Joseph had to leave for a bit when he first saw Benjamin as he was overcome with emotion.

Genesis, Chapter 44

Joseph again gave his brothers grain, and this time planted a silver cup in Benjamin's sack. He had his steward stop them and 'find' the cup, upon which it was said that Benjamin would be taken as a slave. The brothers were distraught, and Judah even pleaded to take him as a slave instead, so that Benjamin could go free to keep Jacob from being heartbroken. Apparently, this was a test to see if they would betray Benjamin like they had betrayed him, and they passed.

Genesis, Chapter 45

Once Judah offered himself in Benjamin's place, Joseph could no longer hold back. He finally revealed his true identity to his brothers. They were understandably worried about how he would treat them given what they had done to him, but he told them, "God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God." He loaded them down with gifts to take back to Canaan, with instructions to get their families and Jacob and bring them back to Egypt so that they could settle in Goshen. Jacob was stunned when he heard the news, "Enough! My son Joseph is still alive. I must go and see him before I die."

Genesis, Chapter 46

Jacob/Israel and his sons left for Goshen, with Jacob having a vision from God on the way. There was a long paragraph on genealogy, and then everybody arrived in Goshen, though they didn't get a chance to settle there, just yet.

Genesis, Chapter 47

After telling Pharaoh that they were shepherds, Pharaoh gave Jacob and his sons permission to settle in Goshen. Then came a scene that seemed a bit odd. Jacob blessed Pharaoh. Egyptian Pharaohs were supposed to be living gods on Earth. It seems a bit presumptuous to try to bless a god.

After that, Genesis began to focus on the famine and its effect on the Egyptians and Canaanites. First, "Joseph collected all the money to be found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, in exchange for the grain that they bought." Once they were out of money, they traded their livestock to Joseph in exchange for grain. The following year, when they had nothing else left to trade for grain, they gave Joseph and thus Pharaoh all of their lands and gave themselves over to be slaves. Only the priests were spared this fate. Following that, Joseph gave the Egyptians seeds to sow, but from then on, they would be obligated to give Pharaoh one fifth of their harvests.

In the final few verses, Jacob made Joseph promise that when he (Jacob) died, that Joseph would have him buried with his ancestors, not in Egypt.

Genesis, Chapter 48

Joseph took his sons to meet their grandfather. In preparation for a blessing, Joseph put the older son on Jacob's right side, and the younger on his left. When Jacob went to bless them, he crossed his hands. When Joseph pointed out that he was switching up the older/younger sons, Jacob replied, "I know, my son, I know; he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great. Nevertheless, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations." This was another of the things that seemed odd from a modern perspective. It's just so much magic - that the hand you use to bless somebody can make a difference. And there was also the patriarchy mindset - that the order you're born in should have some influence on your standing in society.

Genesis, Chapter 49

Knowing that his time was short, Jacob called together his sons to give them some parting words. He predicted their futures, calling out those sons that had done wrong (including Simeon and Levi who started the violence against the Hivites in Chapter 34), and praising those that had acted righteously. "All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, blessing each one of them with a suitable blessing. " After that, he made the request to all of them that he be buried back in the field that Abraham had bought. And after that, "When Jacob ended his charge to his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed, breathed his last, and was gathered to his people. "

Genesis, Chapter 50

Joseph and his brothers took their father's body back to Canaan like he had requested, then returned to Egypt. Joseph had to once again reassure his brothers that he carried no grudge against them. The chapter and the book closed with the children of Jacob, i.e. the twelve tribes of Israel, living in Egypt, seemingly setting the scene for what's to follow in the book of Exodus. The final three verses read, "Then Joseph said to his brothers, 'I am about to die; but God will surely come to you, and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.' 25 So Joseph made the Israelites swear, saying, 'When God comes to you, you shall carry up my bones from here.' 26 And Joseph died, being one hundred and ten years old; he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt."


The Book of Genesis seemed to go through a transition. It began, not exactly with the most grandiose of prose, but with a very grand scale - the entire universe and everything in it. In the early chapters, it's topics remained large, like the Tower of Babel. Even when it was discussing a single family like with Noah, it was in regards to an event that wiped out every other living thing from the Earth. But then it transitioned to being much more narrowly focused on a single family at a time when there were entire nations. God underwent a similar transition. In the earlier chapters, God was very human-like, actually walking amongst people and talking to them directly. There was even a story with God eating. But by the end of the book, God was revealing himself in dreams. His most explicit revelation in those later chapters was as a talking burning bush.

The feel of the book transitioned in parallel with those two points discussed above. The first few chapters of Genesis are very, very obviously not literally true. Aside from their conflict with our modern day understanding of the universe, they just feel mythical. But the later chapters feel a bit more believable. There's still magic and superheroes, but the basics of the story feel like they could have been based on actual events (unfortunately, there's still no evidence for those stories, so there's no way of knowing just how much truth there is to them).

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Website Facelift Completed

Face LiftWay back in July of last year, I announced a Website Facelift. I've mentioned my progress a few more times in Website Update - Top 10 Page List for June 2012, Hawaii Photos & Video, Website Facelift Update, Website Update - Top 10 Page List for September 2012, and Website Update - Top 10 Page List for October 2012. Anyway, more than a year after starting on that project, I believe I'm done. By the time I cleaned up old and outdated pages, there were around 230 pages in my root directory to update. Since I create an html page for each of the photos in my Photos section, that was another 625 html files. And for my Aircraft Image Archive, not only do I create a separate html page for each picture, I create a separate one for each of the different ways the pictures are listed. So that was another 974 html files. Thankfully, I wrote a Visual Basic program to automatically generate those image pages, but it still took some work to get the inputs to the program correct.

I'm glad I'm done. If you want to compare, check out the old site on the Way Back Machine. Personally, I think the site looks better now. It definitely shows up better on my iPhone than the old site did. I hope future visitors appreciate the new look.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Good Commentary on the Fiscal Cliff

MoneyA while back, I wrote a blog entry, Debt Ceiling - Frustration With Politics, detailing my frustration with the way Democrats and Republicans were approaching the debt ceiling debate. Of course, the solution they reached then was to punt on the problem until the end of the year, which is now fast approaching. Last night on NPR, I heard a commentary from Robert Reich on this issue that made a lot of sense , 'Cliff' fix should include triggers. To quote Reich:

We've got two big economic challenges ahead: getting the economy back on track, and getting the budget deficit under control.

The problem is, the two require opposite strategies. We get the economy back on track by boosting demand through low taxes and continued government spending. We get the budget deficit under control by raising taxes and reducing government spending.

He went on to discuss the problems of a large deficit, but also the dangers of austerity and plunging back into another recession. He had a proposed solution, that if not quite realistic, wasn't bad. Go read the article to see what he had to say.

Updated 2012-11-15: Rewrote introductory paragraph.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Response to Article on U.N. Arms Trade Treaty

UN Flag LogoOnce again, I got an e-mail forward that I couldn't help but respond to. This one simply copy-and-pasted an article from Conservative Daily, RE: Election Is Over And The U.N. No Longer Quiet - correction. For those interested, my response is below. I've edited the links a bit to make them more blog friendly (i.e. giving descriptions instead of just the URL).

To give a flavor of the article, here are the two opening paragraphs.

Obama is back in business with the U.N. as they work on implementing the Small Arms Treaty that will eliminate our Second Amendment rights.

The U.N. laid low until after the presidential election because any news about Obama supporting an international gun treaty would have hurt his re-election chances. So, just as he tried to sweep Benghazi under the rug, and just like he asked contractors to ignore the WARN Act and hold off on giving layoff notices until after November 6th, he supposedly pressured United Nations committee members to keep quiet about the Small Arms Treaty until voting was over.

The article went on to discuss all of the dangers of the treaty, and how horrible Obama and the U.N. are. Here's one more paragraph as an example of the language used.

When Obama took office, he reversed the policy of the United States and began treaty negotiations with the U.N. Now that he doesn't have to worry about re-election, he is going to ram through his agenda. Taking away the rights of American gun owners and weakening America is part of that agenda. Governments will become more powerful and well armed, and citizens will see their right to own firearms disappear. It is Barack Obama's dream; the dream of a large state to take care of weakened masses

This article's a little over the top (well, more than a little after skimming through it again). Whether or not you agree with Obama's policies, I think everybody but the conspiracy nuts can agree that his intentions are good. He doesn't want to destroy America or hurt our citizens. He just has policy ideas that conservatives don't think will reach the goals he wants (for example, that the Affordable Care Act might not lower health care costs like he would like), or that conservatives don't necessarily agree with (e.g. that it's the government's responsibility to provide a strong social safety net for the less fortunate). But to claim that "weakening America is part of that [Obama's] agenda" or that "It is Barack Obama's dream; the dream of a large state to take care of weakened masses" is ludicrous.

Second, I couldn't find any mention of a U.N. Small Arms Treaty except on far right websites with articles similar to this one. I could only find an Arms Trade Treaty. That may seem like a small point, but it's indicative of sloppy research. It makes you wonder how well informed their opinions are when they can't even get the name of the treaty right. And seeing as how all the mentions I could find of a U.N. Small Arms Treaty come from far right groups, it makes you wonder if there's an echo chamber effect in what they're writing. i.e. Did the writers of this article ever go outside of far right groups to do research on the treaty, or are they merely repeating claims without looking into their veracity?

Assuming this is referring to the Arms Trade Treaty, there do appear to be legitimate concerns. The treaty is intended primarily to regulate international trade of firearms and help ensure that they don't get into the hands of human rights abusers, but the devil's in the details and we have to be sure that it's final implementation doesn't violate U.S. law. The Obama administration has already demanded provisions to keep this treaty from infringing on American's Second Amendment rights. Here are two relevant statements from the resolution:

  • Reaffirming the inherent right of all States to individual or collective self defence in accordance with Article 51 of the Charter...
  • Acknowledging also the right of States to regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership, including through national constitutional protections on private ownership, exclusively within their territory...

And even assuming that the State Department allowed the final version of the treaty to somehow infringe upon our rights, and further that it ever managed to get passed by the Senate, there's still the Supreme Court to protect our rights. The Reid v. Covert case set the precedent that the Constitution supersedes any international agreements.

Here are a few sources for more information on the treaty and the U.S. position on it, as well as a link to information about the Reid v. Covert case.

Image Source: United Nations

Updated 2012-12-06 - Added excerpts from article to give examples of the type of language used.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

2012 Texas SBOE Election Results

TEA LogoWell, it's been a week since election day. I meant to get to this post sooner, but real life got in the way.

As I've said before, it's really no secret which political direction this part of Texas leans. If you're interested, here are the 2012 Election Results for Wichita County, Texas. In every race but one where a Republican ran, the Republican got the majority of the votes. The sole exception was Democratic incumbent, Barry Mahler, winning reelection for County Commissioner Precinct 3.

I wasn't particularly surprised by these results, but I was especially disappointed in the school board race. I wrote about the school board race before the election in the entry, 2012 Texas SBOE Elections, so you can see exactly why I'm so disappointed that Marty Rowley won. But what about the rest of the state? What does the makeup of the board look like now? Are we in for more shenanigans?

You can follow links from that previous entry to get more information on each of the new school board members, but here's a quick summary.

District Board Member Position
1 Martha Dominguez, D-El Paso Reasonable
2 Ruben Cortez, D-Brownsville Reasonable
3 Marisa Perez, D-San Antonio Reasonable
4 Lawrence Allen, D-Fresno Reasonable
5 Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio Extremist
6 Donna Bahorich, R-Houston Probably Extremist
7 David Bradley, R-Beaumont Extremist
8 Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands Extremist
9 Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant Reasonable
10 Tom Maynard, R-Florence Probably Extremist
11 Pat Hardy, R-Fort Worth Reasonable
12 Geraldine "Tincy" Miller, R-Dallas Reasonable
13 Mavis Knight, D-Dallas Reasonable
14 Sue Melton, R-Waco Reasonable
15 Marty Rowley, R-Amarillo Extremist

So, we have 9 reasonable members out of 15. That's enough to keep the extremist bloc from pulling the types of stunts they've pulled before. It's better than what it was a few years ago, but still disheartening that so many extremists can get elected.

More info: TFN Insider - Another Big Setback for the Far Right on Texas State Board of Education

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday Bible Blogging - Genesis 31 to Genesis 40

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

BibleAlong with continuing the story of Jacob, chapters 31 to 40 of Genesis include the start of the well known story of Joseph of many colored coat fame, though the NRSV translates it a little differently. Also included is the brief story of Onan, which was the inspiration for the term, onanism.

Genesis, Chapter 31

With tension building between Jacob and Laban, Jacob decided to leave and return to his home country. He left suddenly, without warning. His one wife, Rachel, stole her father's household gods on the way. Laban caught up to them on the road a few days later, and was angry about the gods being stolen. Jacob allowed him to search for them, but Rachel had hidden them in the saddle of her camel. When Laban came to her, she said, "Let not my lord be angry that I cannot rise before you, for the way of women is upon me." After that, Laban and Jacob made their peace, made a covenant between them and sacrificed some animals to their gods, and then Jacob was on his way.

Genesis, Chapter 32

As he approached his homeland, Jacob worried about how his brother, Esau, would greet him. So he sent some of his servants ahead with a gift for Esau, "two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15 thirty milch camels and their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys," spacing them out so that Esau would get gift after gift after gift.

One of the stranger stories I've read in Genesis took place at the end of this chapter. After sending his wives and children on, Jacob spent the night by himself, "Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak." When the man saw that he was going to lose, he knocked Jacob's hip out of joint. When day was breaking and Jacob had the upper hand, he told the man, "I will not let you go, unless you bless me." After asking Jacob for his name, the man responded, "You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed." There was a bit more exchange where Jacob asked the man for his name, but the man wouldn't tell him.

So once again, this part of the Bible presents a very anthropomorphic god - one who physically wrestled with someone. And not only that, the man was able to overpower God.

Genesis, Chapter 33

This was a short chapter. Jacob and Esau reunited, and it was a happy reunion.

This chapter had more of a just-so aspect that I haven't discussed much yet - place names. Sprinkled throughout what I've read so far are little statements of, 'so and so did such and such, and that's why the place is called what it is to this day'. For example, here's verse 17 of this chapter, "But Jacob journeyed to Succoth [meaning booths], and built himself a house, and made booths for his cattle; therefore the place is called Succoth."

Genesis, Chapter 34

While out and about visiting women of the area, one of Jacob's daughters was seized by "Hamor the Hivite, prince of the region", who raped her and wanted to take her for a wife. The Israelites were understandably outraged, but met with the Hivites. Apparently acting 'deceitfully', they agreed to go along with the Hivite request only if all of the Hivite males would become circumcised. "Then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters for ourselves, and we will live among you and become one people." While the Hivite males were still recovering from their procedures, two of Jacob's sons, Simeon and Levi, went in and slaughtered them all. Then, the rest of Jacob's sons went in to plunder the city, taking all of the women, livestock, wealth, etc. Simeon and Levi were at least called out for their violent ways, but it was because of their tactical mistake, "my numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household." But still, this was a pretty horrible act committed by all of Jacob's sons, who instead of trying to right the wrong committed by their brothers, went in and plundered instead.

Genesis, Chapter 35

This chapter involved more moving around and more genealogy. A couple notable occurrences were the death of Rachel during childbirth, and one of Jacob's sons sleeping with one of Jacob's concubines.

This chapter contains a separate account of Jacob earning the name, Israel. "God appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddan-aram, and he blessed him. 10 God said to him, 'Your name is Jacob; no longer shall you be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.' So he was called Israel." I guess this came from a different tradition than the one where he wrestled with God.

At the close of this chapter, Isaac died, with only 2 verses devoted to his death and burial.

Genesis, Chapter 36

This chapter was devoted almost entirely to genealogy. About the only 'action' was Esau moving to a new land "For their possessions were too great for them to live together; the land where they were living could not support them because of their livestock." And of course, since Esau's alias was Edom (see Chapter 25), his descendants became known as the Edomites.

Genesis, Chapter 37

Chapter 37 starts the story of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, or rather, as the NRSV translates it, Joseph and his "long robe with sleeves". It's not quite as glamorous, but probably more accurate. Joseph, being the youngest son [correction - second youngest], was Jacob's favorite. In addition, he had dreams that foreshadowed him ruling over his brothers. For those reasons, his brothers became jealous of him and plotted to kill him. At the last, they decided to sell him into slavery, instead. Only one brother, Reuben, disapproved of what they had done. To cover their tracks, the brothers took his long sleeved robe, soaked it in goat's blood, and told their father that Joseph had been attacked and killed by a wild animal.

Genesis, Chapter 38

Here is a slight interlude from Joseph's story to focus on one of his brothers, Judah. This chapter is notable as being the inspiration for the term onanism. "Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord put him to death." So Judah told his other son, Onan, to "Go in to your brother's wife and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her; raise up offspring for your brother." Onan wasn't too keen on making children that wouldn't be counted as his, so he 'pulled out', and "spilled his semen on the ground". This angered the Lord, so God put Onan to death, as well. So from this chapter, wasting semen without attempting to impregnate a woman, whether as coitus interruptus or as masturbation, has been termed onanism.

After Onan's death, Judah told the widow, Tamar, to wait on his other son, Shelah, to grow up and be old enough to marry her. This is where the story really begins to get interesting. Several years later, after Judah's wife had died, he went to Timnah to have his sheep sheared. Tamar heard he was coming, and also realized that she hadn't yet been married to Shelah even though he was old enough, so she went to a town on their way to meet them. Because "she had covered her face", Judah mistook her for a prostitute and propositioned her. He promised her a goat as payment, and for collateral until she actually got the goat, he gave her his signet, cord, and staff. After the deed was done, she left that town and returned home. When Judah sent a friend with the goat, she was nowhere to be found. Judah decided to cut his losses and let the 'prostitute' keep his things.

Three months later, there was a rumor that "Tamar has played the whore" and become pregnant. Judah called for her to be burned until she presented him with the signet, cord, and staff. Judah responded that "She is more in the right than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah", and he never slept with her again.

When it came time for her twins to be born, when the first stuck his hand out, a red thread was tied around it. But then, he pulled his hand back in, and the other twin came out first. They were named Perez (meaning breach) and Zerah (meaning brightness).

Genesis, Chapter 39

Chapter 39 got back to Joseph's story. He was sold to "Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian". Joseph did such a good job that Potiphar put him in charge of his entire household. Unfortunately, Potiphar's wife was taken with Joseph, and continually tried to seduce him. After repeatedly getting turned down, she finally framed him and had him thrown in her husband's prison. But "the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love; he gave him favour in the sight of the chief jailer." The chief jailer put Joseph in charge of the other prisoners, making his life about as good as it could be while still being locked up.

Genesis, Chapter 40

At one point, Pharaoh became angry with both his cup bearer and baker, and had them thrown into the same prison Joseph was in. "One night they both dreamed -- the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison -- each his own dream, and each dream with its own meaning." Through the Lord, Joseph was able to interpret their dreams for them - that the cup bearer would be pardoned by Pharaoh and released in three days, while the baker would be condemned and hung, "and the birds will eat the flesh from you." Joseph asked the cup bearer to remember him once he was released. The future came to pass just as Joseph had predicted, but the cup bearer forgot about Joseph, and Joseph remained in prison.


I find myself jumping between different mindsets when reading these chapters. At times, I'll imagine that these people were real, and try to imagine what might have been happening in reality to make them think that they were interacting with the divine. Other times, I'll imagine that they were real but that the story had been passed on many times, and try to imagine what might have caused the legend to grow to what it became. Other times, I'll just read the story as entirely legendary without trying to think up historical inspirations.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Get Out and Vote, 2012

I Voted Today
Image Sourc: WPClipArt.com

I voted today. Now go and do it yourself if you haven't already.

Like I've said many times previously, I hardly ever vote a straight ticket, and this year was no exception. Granted, my ballot limited my choices on several of the races, but I still judged each of the candidates individually. For the record, I voted for 3 Green Party candidates, 4 Libertarian candidates, 7 Democratic candidates, and 9 Republican candidates (and only 2/3 of those Republicans were in uncontested races). That's actually 1 less vote than there were races on my ballot. One uncontested candidate I refused to vote for.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Election 2012

PoliticsTomorrow is Election Day. Go vote and let your voice be heard. It's probably too late at this point to change many minds, but it's the obligation of bloggers to voice their opinions even when no one is interested.

I've already written about the Texas State Board of Education election in the entry, 2012 Texas SBOE Elections. Given the history of extremists on the Texas SBOE, make sure you vote for a reasonable candidate to avoid the types of shenanigans our school board became infamous for. If you live in my district, vote for Steven Schafersman.

I've also written before about Texas Republicans in general in the entry, The 2012 Texas Republican Platform. Go read that to see just how crazy some of their positions are. But just remember to judge each candidate individually. As I've mentioned before, I've never voted a straight ticket, and this year is no exception. There are one or two Republicans I'll be voting for.

If you're interested in general aviation, check out AOPA's 2012 Voter's Guide on GA issues in Congress.

And if you're still undecided on the presidential election, here's an interesting survey you can take:
I Side With...

They ask you a series of questions on different issues, and you give your answers along with how important that particular issue is to you. It then tallies up all your answers and gives you the candidates that match you the best. For the record, my best match according to that survey was Jill Stein, followed by Obama, then followed by every other major third party candidate, and finally with Romney as my worst match at something like 6%.

I've mentioned Romney a few times on this blog before. I won't link to all of those entries (just browse my Politics category if you're that interested), but here are a few of the more informative entries that have discussed the man.

While I may not be the biggest fan of Obama, for most of the issues where I disagree with him, Romney would be just as bad or worse. So, seeing as how third party candidates have pretty much zero chance of winning, I can only hope that projections such as the Five Thirty Eight Forecast are correct, and that Obama wins tomorrow.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Friday Bible Blogging - Genesis 21 to Genesis 30

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

BibleThe stories in Chapters 21 through 30 of Genesis are fairly well known, but not as familiar as the stories from the beginning of the book. Probably the mast famous (infamous) story from these chapters is the one where God commands Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac (Chapter 22).

Genesis, Chapter 21

This chapter started out with Sarah having a son just as the Lord had promised, and Abraham named the son Isaac. Somewhat paralleling Chapter 16, Sarah again had Abraham exile Hagar, this time because Sarah didn't want Isaac to share his inheritance with Ishmael. Abraham was at least upset at Sarah's demand, but God himself told Abraham, "whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named after you." So Abraham sent her away with nothing but "bread and a skin of water". After wandering in the wilderness for a while and being on the verge of death from starvation and dehydration, God finally "opened her eyes" so that she could see a well. Then, in two short verses, it says that God stayed with Ishmael as he grew up.

That entire set of verses seems so callous to me. First, there's Abraham's abandonment of his own son. And God's only justification to Abraham of why it was okay was "it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named after you," as if carrying on the family name is more important than caring for your children. Then there was the manner in which he exiled her, kicking her out in the wilderness, without enough supplies to survive. Sure, God eventually came along and saved them, but it was only after they'd suffered enough to be on the verge of death. And the way God saved her was that he "opened her eyes". Is this implying that God was closing her eyes to the well before? That God was the one causing her suffering?

After that, King Abimelech made a pact with Abraham since Abimelech recognized that Abraham was blessed by God. There was a little bit of arguing about wells, during which Abraham gave Abimelech livestock, including seven ewe lambs "in order that you may be a witness for me that I dug this well."

Genesis, Chapter 22

This chapter will always hold a bit of special significance with me, because it was when listening to it one Sunday at church that I realized I was on the path to leaving Christianity. This chapter contains the story where God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Abraham took a small trip with Isaac and a few men to the land of Moriah. Once he saw the mountain where the sacrifice was to take place, he told the men to stay behind, while he and Isaac went on. He even had Isaac carry the fire wood that was going to be used for the burnt-offering. When Isaac started to get suspicious and asked where the lamb was that they were going to sacrifice, Abraham lied and told his son that God would provide the lamb. Once they reached the mountain top and built the altar, Abraham bound up Isaac, and had the knife in hand, poised to kill his own son. It was only then at the last second that an angel of the Lord stopped him and revealed a ram caught in a thicket that he should sacrifice instead.

This story was supposed to show Abraham's utter devotion to God, "Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore." But when I was sitting there in the pew that Sunday years ago, I thought to myself that this story would have been much better if Abraham had refused God's command. It would have shown true love and devotion to his son to go up against impossible odds trying to defy a god. As it was, it was a horrific story. Thankfully, it's almost surely just a myth, but just imagine it from Isaac's point of view if something like that had actually happened, to be tied up by your father, and to see him coming at you with a knife.

One final point on this story, after God promised to make Abraham's descendants as numerous as the sands of the seashore, he then promised, "And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies..." It just struck me as a bit violent. It was also in keeping with the theme I mentioned last week, that God in Genesis seems very provincial. If God was the creator of everybody, that would presumably include Abraham's enemies. Why would a creator be so uncaring of those particular people, allowing them to be conquered?

The chapter closed with a bit of genealogy listing the children of Milcah, both those of his wife and those of his concubine. This theme of multiple wives and concubines seems to be pretty common.

Genesis, Chapter 23

Sarah finally died at the ripe old age of 127 years old. Apparently, she and Abraham were no longer living together, because the previous chapter put Abraham in Beersheba while Sarah died while living in Kiriath-arba. One of the things that struck me about this was where the Biblical authors decided to focus their attention. I mean, in the previous 22 chapters leading up to this one, the book of Genesis hasn't been particularly detail filled. The first creation story, describing the creation of the entire heavens and earth and everything in the universe, took place in just one chapter. This was a whole chapter devoted almost solely to Abraham haggling with the Hittites over the cost of the land to bury his wife. It just seemed a bit odd.

Genesis, Chapter 24

In this chapter, Abraham sent his servant on a journey to his homeland to find a wife for Isaac from his kindred as opposed to the Canaanites. To bind the servant with an oath, Abraham told him to "Put your hand under my thigh 3 and I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and earth..." There's actually a bit of a question on what this means. According to Yeshiva.org.il, some people think this is translated accurately and it really does mean his thigh. Other people think instead of the thigh, it means the 'organ of circumcision'. That's because an oath had to be sworn while holding something sacred, and a circumcised organ was considered sacred.

The rest of the chapter told of how the servant found Rebekah. Nothing too noteworthy here - he asked God for a sign (a pretty mundane one at that), and God gave him the sign that Rebekah was the girl for Isaac. He paid her family the appropriate gifts and took her back to Isaac. "Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother's death."

Genesis, Chapter 25

This chapter started with a very brief description of Isaac taking another wife and his descendants through her. That section ended with what has been the standard tradition through what I've read so far in Genesis - where one son is promised his father's entire inheritance, and all the other children, especially those of the concubines, are sent off, this time with gifts.

A brief mention was made of Abraham's death and burial alongside Sarah, before getting into more genealogy, including a very brief mention of Ishmael's death.

After that, the chapter began the story of Jacob and Esau, sons of Isaac and Rebekah. The start certainly seemed mythical - they were struggling against each other already in the womb symbolizing the struggle that would come later, "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided; one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger." Esau, the elder of the twins, was described as very hairy and "a skilful hunter, a man of the field." Jacob was described as "a quiet man, living in tents." Esau was Isaac's favorite, while Rebekah favored Jacob.

The close of the chapter was the story of how Esau gave away his birthright to Jacob. Coming in from the fields extremely hungry, he found Jacob with a red stew. After Esau asked him for it, Jacob only agreed to share if Esau would give away his birthright. Esau, being impetuous, declared that since he was about to starve anyway, he had no need of a birthright. This story was also where Esau acquired the alias, Edom, which means red, in reference to his request for the stew.

Genesis, Chapter 26

Chapter 26 began with some strong parallels to Chapter 20, where just like Abraham, Isaac went to Gerar, and told King Abimelech that his wife was actually his sister. This time, however, nobody married Rebekah. They were found out when Abimelech "looked out of a window and saw him fondling his wife Rebekah." After that, Abimelech warned his people not to marry Rebekah, and Isaac settled in the land. However, after becoming too successful, the Philistines became envious and King Abimelech sent him away.

This was followed by some more parallels to Abraham's story, with Isaac arguing with the Philistines over some wells. After that, in a brief blurb of only three verses, Isaac was visited by the Lord and told that he would be blessed, so he made an altar at the location to commemorate it. This was followed by another parallel to Abraham, where Isaac made a pact with King Abimelech.

The chapter closed with Isaac marrying two more women.

Genesis, Chapter 27

This chapter contains yet another story from the Bible that appears odd from a modern perspective. Isaac was old and blind, and knew he was not much longer for this world. So he called his favorite son, Esau, and told him to go out hunting to catch him some of the wild game that he (Isaac) liked to eat, and that he would bless Esau upon his return from the hunt. Rebekah overheard this, and decided she would use this information to help her favorite son, Jacob. She made the type of "savoury food" that Isaac liked, and put furs on Jacob to mimic his brother's hairy skin. Then she told him to go into his father's tent and pretend to be his brother to get his blessing. The plan worked, and Jacob stole Esau's blessing. When Esau showed up at his father's tent, both he and Isaac realized what Jacob had done, but it was too late. When Esau asked for a blessing of his own, Isaac told him that he had no blessing left to give, "Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing." Esau was understandably upset about all this, and started talking of killing his brother once he got a chance after Isaac died. Rebekah heard of his plans, and sent Jacob away, not to return until Esau had calmed down.

There were a few points about this story that struck me. First was the deceitfulness from one of the heroes of the Bible, Jacob. In fact, in the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB) that I have, they specifically likened this story to the trickster motif.

What struck me more, though, was how somebody could steal somebody else's blessing. It really seems like magic, like Isaac only had so much power, and he used it all up on Jacob, leaving nothing for Esau. But what's really strange from a modern Christian perspective is that Isaac asked God to bless Isaac. Was Isaac so powerful that he could demand God to do things? And shouldn't God have known of the deception? It seems a bit silly to think that a few furs and old clothes would have been able to fool the Almighty into giving you a blessing that belonged to somebody else. Or if God was the one doing the blessing, then why would it have mattered how many people had been blessed previously? Shouldn't God have had the power to bless as many people as he wanted?

Genesis, Chapter 28

Due to Rebekah's comment to him in the close of the previous chapter, Isaac sent Jacob away to find a wife that wasn't a Canaanite, but rather "one of the daughters of Laban, your mother's brother." I response, "when Esau saw that the Canaanite women did not please his father Isaac," he went and took another wife, one of the daughters of Ishmael.

One night during his trip, when using a stone as a pillow, Jacob had a dream where he was visited by the Lord, and received God's promise that he would be blessed. So Jacob "took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it," and called the place Bethel.

The part of this story that struck me was Jacob's reaction to the dream, "Then Jacob made a vow, saying, 'If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, 21 so that I come again to my father's house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God..." His acceptance of God was contingent on God first being good to him. This is certainly counter to what I'd been taught many times, that you shouldn't put the Lord to the test. And reiterating a point I've written in previous entries, by saying that "the Lord shall be my God," it seems to be implying that there are other options, that perhaps there were other gods Jacob could have chosen.

Genesis, Chapter 29

Chapter 29 begins the telling of Jacob's relationship with Laban. It started with Jacob meeting Rachel, the daughter of Laban. This story had an air of legend about it. There was a well covered by a big stone. The shepherds of the area would get together to move the stone out of the way to get access to the well. When Jacob saw Rachel approaching with her livestock and asked a few shepherds about moving the stone so that she could water her animals, they said they'd have to wait for more people to show up - presumably because it was too heavy for the few of them there. So Jacob went and moved the stone by himself, demonstrating a feat of superhuman strength.

After the story by the well, Jacob went on to actually meet Laban. Jacob agreed to work for Laban for 7 years in exchange for the marriage of Rachel at the end of his service. However, unbeknownst to Jacob, Laban gave him Leah on his wedding night. Presumably due to her veil and then the darkness, Jacob didn't realize he'd been tricked until the next morning after he'd already consummated the marriage. After being confronted, Laban agreed to give Jacob Rachel as well, but only after Jacob finished out his week with Leah (a honeymoon week?), and only if Jacob agreed to work for Laban for another 7 years. Jacob agreed, got Rachel, and consequently stayed in the service of Laban.

The chapter closed with God blessing Leah because she was unloved and giving her three sons while making Rachel barren.

One thing that struck me about this chapter more so than the previous chapters I've read is the mindset of women as property. Jacob negotiated with Laban on which daughter he was going to marry. There was no mention of either Rachel or Leah's wishes in the matter.

Genesis, Chapter 30

The beginning of this chapter continued the childbearing from the close of the previous chapter with almost a competition between Rachel and Leah. First, when Rachel realized that she was barren but saw Leah giving Jacob so many children, she gave Jacob her maid so that Jacob could have children with the maid. Leah countered by giving Jacob her maid. After that was some bickering between Rachel and Leah, with Leah birthing more children, and then finally, Rachel conceived and gave birth to a child of her own.

After all of that, Jacob approached Laban, saying that he was ready to return to his homeland. But first, since he had spent so many years working for someone else, he needed an opportunity to build up his own household. They made a deal that Jacob could keep "every speckled and spotted sheep and every black lamb, and the spotted and speckled among the goats" from Laban's flocks. Being a bit sneaky, Laban went and "removed the male goats that were striped and spotted, and all the female goats that were speckled and spotted, every one that had white on it, and every lamb that was black, and put them in charge of his sons" three day's journey from the flocks Jacob was in charge of. But that didn't faze Jacob, because he had a plan on how to make the livestock give birth to striped, spotted, and speckled babies. He took "fresh rods of poplar and almond and plane, and peeled white streaks in them", and then set those in front of the livestock when they were breeding, which in turn affected the appearance of their babies. Of course, this makes no sense from a modern perspective, but the ancient writers of Genesis had no understanding of genetics and wouldn't have questioned this story.

Jacob did another practice that makes sense if you assume that the branches had the effect the Genesis writers claimed - he only put the sticks out when the strongest of the flocks were breeding, but not when the weaker ones were. That way, he got the offspring of the stronger animals, while Laban was left with the offspring of the weaker ones.

In the last verse of the chapter, we learn that thanks to his creative breeding practices, Jacob became a very wealthy man.


After sharing my impressions of the Bible in the previous two installments of this series, I don't have much to add this time. These stories don't present a very grand portrayal of Yahweh, and it's pretty clear that what I've read so far is a collection of legends, not an actual history nor metaphors with profound meaning (though some of the stories do have meaning a bit deeper than face value).

I noticed that this week's entry was a bit longer than the previous ones, because I gave a bit more of a synopsis for each chapter. I'll try to be briefer next week.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Website Update - Top 10 Page List for October 2012

Top 10 ListAnother month down, another chance to look at the server logs. There were a couple surprises this time around. The blog entry, Running AutoCAD R14 in XP Pro 64 made the top spot for the first time. And another blog entry, Is It Weird to Use 'Dear' in Formal Letters? made its first appearance on the list.

In reference to my ongoing website facelift, I'm nearly done. The only pages left are my Aviation Image Archive. Those take a little while to do, though. They're just as involved as my photo pages, so it's slow going.

Anyway, here were the top 10 most popular pages on this site last month.

Top 10 for October 2012

  1. Blog - Running AutoCAD R14 in XP Pro 64
  2. Autogyro History & Theory
  3. Blog - A Skeptical Look at MBT Shoes
  4. Blog - Origin of Arabic Numerals - Was It Really for Counting Angles?
  5. Factoids Debunked & Verified
  6. Factoids Debunked & Verified, Part II
  7. Blog - Response to an Editorial by Ken Huber
  8. Blog - Is It Weird to Use 'Dear' in Formal Letters?
  9. Blog - Email Debunking - Tips on Pumping Gas
  10. Programming

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